Last year, Washington had the fifth highest number of deaths from police use of force in the nation. We know that the loss of life is devastating for both families and officers. Yes on 940 addresses this by providing officers with greater violence de-escalation and mental health crisis training across Washington. It also provides first aid training for officers and requires first aid at the scene. The focus on prevention and greater training will save lives and is good for the public and for officers.
Yes on 940 helps protect people experiencing mental health crises. Up to a third of those killed by police in Washington State have signs of mental illness. Yes on 940 improves mental health training so officers know how to handle difficult situations and keep people with mental illness safe.
Yes on 940 also addresses a big gap in our State law by creating an independent investigation process for these tragic instances. I-940 removes the malice clause and defines good faith using an objective standard. I-940 includes a fair process to determine if an officer acted reasonably.
Yes on 940 acknowledges the complex situations that law enforcement officers might find themselves in and proposes training to address the impacts of bias, stereotypes, and stigmas. People with disabilities, people of color, youth, Native Americans, LGBTQ, and people in poverty are sometimes misunderstood in a crisis. Yes on 940 provides modern training to help officers communicate with people from different backgrounds, and from all walks of life, so that police better understand the people they serve.
What is the Goal of Yes on 940?
The goal is to save lives and prevent tragedies. This is accomplished through training and increased accountability.
How will I-940 Save Lives?
It will require violence de-escalation training so that the officers have the skills to avoid the use of deadly force where possible. And require training officers on interactions with persons in a mental health crisis. It puts directly into State law a state policy that officers must render first aid to save lives.
What are the specifics of I-940?
Initiative 940 requires law enforcement across the state to receive training on:
- violence de-escalation,
- mental health, and
- first aid.
In addition to training, the initiative:
- requires officers to provide first aid at the scene under certain circumstances,
- establishes a good faith standard for use of deadly force,
- requires a completely independent investigation for use of deadly force where there is a death or injury,
- requires the involvement of tribes in investigations if their members are killed or injured, and
- mandates that the community be involved in developing policy for curriculum and training hours, guidelines for rendering first aid, and procedures for the independent investigations.
What is Violence De-Escalation Training?
It is training that emphasizes using force only when necessary. It includes calming a crisis through tactics such as compassion and communication, having a mindset in advance, gaining cooperation, creating space between an officer and a subject, waiting for backups and other supports to arrive, and using the lowest level of force necessary.
Do Officers Already Receive Violence De-Escalation Training?
Yes they do, and it is not enough. I-940 will make it a requirement in state statute, will require that everyone receive it, as well as receive regular updates. The new curriculum will cover topics related to stereotypes, bias, and working with people from all walks of life.
Is mental health training already required?
No. Right now, officers are required to take 8 hours of crisis intervention training during their six months at the Criminal Justice Training Academy. The Academy is required to develop and make mental health training available however state law does not require that it be taken. I-940 puts a priority on mental health training.
What is Mental Health Training?
The goal of mental health training is to increase safety in encounters between officers and people experiencing a mental health crisis. The training has achieved this in police departments across the country by improving officers’ ability to recognize symptoms of mental illness, enhancing their confidence in addressing these situations, reducing stigma and inaccurate beliefs about mental illness, and promoting collaboration with community mental health providers and people with mental illness.
This initiative would strengthen existing mental health training and would explicitly involve people with mental illness, persons with disabilities, and other community stakeholders in the work.
How are the Curriculum and Hours Set in the Initiative?
The Criminal Justice Training Commission is directed to establish curriculum and hours through rulemaking and must include community stakeholders, law enforcement, the attorney general, and tribes.
Who are Community Stakeholders?
The Initiative says that where the policy making requires involvement of community stakeholders input must be sought from organizations advocating for:
- Persons with disabilities;
- members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community;
- persons of color;
- native Americans;
- youth; and
- formerly incarcerated persons.
Is there any guidance in the Initiative about the content of the training?
Yes, the initiative states that the Criminal Justice Training Commission shall consider the following:
(a) De-escalation in patrol tactics and interpersonal communication training, including tactical methods that use time, distance, cover, and concealment, to avoid escalating situations that lead to violence;
(b) Alternatives to jail booking, arrest, or citation in situations where appropriate;
(c) Implicit and explicit bias, cultural competency, and the historical intersection of race and policing;
(d) Skills including de-escalation techniques to effectively, safely, and respectfully interact with people with disabilities and/or behavioral health issues;
(e) "Shoot/don't shoot" scenario training;
(f) Alternatives to the use of physical or deadly force so that deadly force is used only when unavoidable and as a last resort;
(g) Mental health and policing, including bias and stigma; and
(h) Using public service, including rendering of first aid, to provide a positive point of contact between law enforcement officers and community members to increase trust and reduce conflicts.
Why Require a Completely Independent Investigation?
The goal of a “completely independent investigation” is to:
- Remove bias and influence.
- Address conflicts of interest.
- Create an appearance of fairness.
Consideration should be given to investigations:
- Being conducted by professionals with specific expertise; and
- That include civilians to observe the process.
The result in an investigation that is credible from many perspectives and achieves maximum appropriate transparency.
Initiative 940 requires a completely independent investigation of the incident/crime scene if the use of force results in “death, substantial bodily harm, or great bodily harm."
Resources Referencing Independent Investigations
PERF Guiding Principles on the Use of Deadly Force: PERF calls for “All critical police incidents resulting in death or serious bodily injury should be reviewed by specially trained personnel.”
Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing: The Report calls for “external and independent criminal investigations in cases of police use of force resulting in death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, or in-custody deaths.”
Amnesty International USA. Deadly Force: Police Use of Force in the United States: AIUSA calls for “independent, impartial, and transparent investigation”
What is the Good Faith Standard?
The Initiative removes the de facto immunity (which is the 'without malice and with a good faith belief defense') and puts a good faith standard in place.
The good faith standard will require that both an objective test and a subjective test be met. The objective test is the reasonable officer test, and the subjective test is whether the officer sincerely believed their actions were warranted.
When will these various provisions be implemented?
Some of the provisions are effective 30 days after the initiative is certified. This includes the good faith standard and the requirement for a completely independent investigation. The initiative requires that rulemaking to establish procedures for the investigations must be completed within a year of the effective date of the initiative. This rulemaking must include the community, the AGO, Tribes, and law enforcement.
The violence de-escalation and mental health training requirements must be adopted within six months of enactment, and will be developed through working with the community, the AGO, Tribes, and law enforcement. The requirement to receive violence de-escalation and mental health training takes effect one year after the effective date, and includes requirements for regular updates. New officers will receive the training within fifteen months of hire, and the criminal justice training commission is directed to establish requirements for the officers who are already employed.
How would you summarize the Initiative?
Training works, and police should have the skills to keep themselves and the public safe.
- Violence de-escalation training reduces the use of deadly force.
- Mental health training provides skills so that law enforcement can respectfully interact with and protect persons with mental health issues.
- First aid training and the duty to provide first aid will preserve lives.
Accountability is important.
- The good faith standard will provide for accountability for unjustified use of deadly force.
- The independent investigation will allow for an unbiased and impartial process.
- Including tribal governments in investigations where their members are involved recognizes the sovereign status of tribes.
- Including community stakeholders in rulemaking is part of accountability to the public.
These are some of the standards we have used for best practices and philosophies to protect human rights and human life.
Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deescalatewashington/ click here